Crime up in 2015: police, experts weigh in on why

Winnipeg police release annual statistics

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The crime rate in Winnipeg increased in 2015 — the first time in a decade, Winnipeg police said Wednesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/07/2016 (2388 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The crime rate in Winnipeg increased in 2015 — the first time in a decade, Winnipeg police said Wednesday.

The Winnipeg Police Service released the 2015 annual statistical report that shows overall crime in the city went up by seven per cent from 2014.

Violent crime rose by six per cent, and property crimes jumped by nine per cent, the report said.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Deputy Chief Danny Smyth

Deputy chief Danny Smyth said the number of reported crimes, the crime rate and the city’s crime-severity index all increased in 2015 from 2014.

“This general increase is consistent with what we’re seeing being reported in other cities across Canada,” Smyth said.

“I think as a country we’re experiencing an uptick in reported crime, especially in Western Canada.”

However, both an inner-city activist and a criminologist told the Free Press they don’t think the city is more dangerous.

The report also showed:

• Winnipeg’s rates of kidnapping and forcible confinement increased by 36 per cent, with 53 incidents committed in 2015. Smyth said 32 of those incidents were domestic;

• Youth crime is also on the rise, especially relating to property crimes;

• Break-and-enter rates increased by 27 per cent, while possessing stolen property increased by 31 per cent;

• Vehicle thefts increased by 80 per cent;

• Rates of youth possession of cocaine increased by 300 per cent in 2015.

Smyth said Winnipeg has “always had high rates of (robbery, homicide and sexual assault) when compared to other cities.”

The deputy chief said sometimes the statistics change because of a difference in the information being collected.

He said the “commodification of sexual activity” category — which includes offences that used to be under the headings of human trafficking and prostitution — now falls under violent crimes, and pushed that rate up last year.

“For the better part of 10 years our crime rates have consistently trended down, and it’s certainly our hope that 2015 is just a short-term hiccup and that it will continue to trend down in the long run,” Smyth said, adding he would be concerned if the numbers continue to increase in the long term.

“If you look at our rates over five years or 10 years, there’s nothing alarming here, but we have to acknowledge that there is an uptick.”

Sel Burrows of the North Point Douglas Seniors Association said the information surprised him.

“Our impression for Point Douglas has been the reverse. We’ve seen things go down significantly in the last few years. We don’t keep statistics, but the number of calls we have received is down.”

Burrows said when they see gang activity, they call police and mobilize community members.

“We’re not crime-free… but, for example, we have no visible gang houses. We are surprised that the crime rates are up.”

‘For the better part of 10 years our crime rates have consistently trended down, and it’s certainly our hope that 2015 is just a short-term hiccup and that it will continue to trend down in the long run’– Deputy chief Danny Smyth

Statistics Canada said police-reported crime across the country went up by five per cent in 2015 — the first jump in 12 years. However, its report said police-reported crime was 31 per cent lower than it was in 2005.

Manitoba’s crime-severity index rose by eight per cent, with mischief accounting for 24 per cent of police-reported crime here.

There were almost 1.9 million Criminal Code incidents reported by police across the country last year with homicide increasing 15 per cent, attempted murder 22 per cent, fraud 15 per cent, and sexual assaults four per cent.

Violent crime increased by six per cent across the country, while non-violent crime rose by four per cent.

Prof. Frank Cormier, who teaches criminology at the University of Manitoba, said national figures have been affected by the economic nosedive in Alberta.

Alberta’s crime-severity index increased 18 per cent in 2015, while B.C., Ontario and Saskatchewan saw smaller increases. The Statistics Canada report says Alberta has been experiencing a higher number of break-and-enters, theft of $5,000 and under and vehicle theft.

“With the dramatic change in the economy in Alberta we’ll see more crime because people lose jobs, they drink more, they have more stress,” Cormier said.

“Anything that shakes up our lives will change our behaviour.”

Cormier said some of the Winnipeg statistics are not as negative as they sound.

“All other assaults is a 650 per cent increase, but they went from two to 15 incidents and there is no definition of what gets put in that category,” he said. “A 650 per cent increase sounds horrifying, but there are thousands and thousands of other (types of ) assaults.”

As well, Cormier said 67 of what used to be prostitution offences have moved into the violent category from being non-violent.

“There can be many things that can change the numbers other than criminal behaviour,” he said.

“Winnipeggers shouldn’t be worried — that’s the short answer. We are at almost the lowest crime rate in my lifetime now. We are in very good times. We cannot expect crime to go down every year in perpetuity — that would be unrealistic. But as long as the trend continues downwards, that is good.”

alexandra.depape@freepress.mb.cakevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

2015_wps_annual_report_english

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

History

Updated on Thursday, July 21, 2016 7:46 AM CDT: Adds photo

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